We’ve all been there. Refreshing Woj’s feed in the offseason and casting judgment on how our favorite team’s GM has chosen to build the team.
With the benefit of hindsight, we’ve all convinced ourselves that we alone hold the key to building a title contender. Well, thanks to NBA2K, I decided to put my theory, and ego, to the test. I’ve played NBA2k for years but never dabbled with the franchise mode. I decided to take the plunge and see if I could turn my Mavericks into Champions in 3 years or less.
First, I set some ground rules:
- Keep transactions as realistic as possible
- Role-playing Elements are OFF
- Advanced CBA Rules turned ON
- Salary Cap, Hard Cap, and Luxury Tax turned ON
- Play-In Tournament turned ON
- Downloaded 2022 Rookie Class and Turned custom storylines OFF
I started by simulating the season through January 1st. I wanted to get an idea of how the team would perform as is. Much to my chagrin, Dallas started off 18-17. In my mind, the current iteration of the Mavericks was a lock for a top 4 record in the West. The 18-17 start humbled me and made me realize some serious changes needed to be made.
- Traded away Josh Green and a 2022 2nd round pick. Received Cam Johnson and an unprotected 2025 1st rounder from Phoenix
- Traded away Maxi Kleber, Willie Cauley-Stein and Phoenix’s 2025 1st rounder. Received Richaun Holmes, Chimezie Metu
- Traded away Cam Johnson and Dwight Powell. Received Evan Fournier and Wayne Selden Jr.
- Traded away Dorian Finney-Smith, Trey Burke, and 2025 2nd Rounder. Received Larry Nance Jr. and Greg Brown.
- Traded away Frank Ntilikina and Boban Marjonavic. Received Furkan Korkmaz and Paul Reed.
The Mavericks traded for Evan Fournier, Larry Nance Jr., and Richaun Holmes. During the offseason, these were three of the names many Mavericks fans mentioned. I wanted to see how those players would fare next to Luka Doncic. Spoiler Alert - not well. I simulated the rest of the season and the Mavs finished 10 games under .500 and got the 12th pick in the draft for their troubles.
It was a humbling experience but I was determined to turn things around in Year 2. The Mavericks took Kentucky big man Damion Collins in the draft and assessed where we were as a team. I had two years left to win a title and we were further from our goal than when we started. With no functional cap space to speak of, it was time to hit the phones and explore the trade market.
- Traded away Richaun Holmes, Evan Fournier, Larry Nance Jr., and a 2024 2nd rounder. Received Malcolm Brogdon and Myles Turner
- Traded away Sterling Brown, Furkan Korkmaz, and Reggie Bullock. Received Bogdan Bogdanovic and a protected 2024 1st rounder (Atlanta).
Dallas moved one from last year’s key acquisitions in one fell swoop. In return, the Mavericks got two players who Dallas fans have coveted for the past couple of seasons. Atlanta offered us Bogdanovic and I was beside myself. He slotted in as the sixth man and would help anchor our second unit. During simulations, it was the second unit that cost us a number of games. The Mavericks needed offensive firepower in non-Luka minutes and Bogdanovic could provide just that.
Once again, I simulated the season through January 1st. We started the season 20-12 and were third in the Western Conference. The team was finally coalescing and I was excited about the team’s future. We received a ton of interest in Kristaps Porzingis but none of the trade offers were good enough to pull the trigger. I simulated the season to the day before the trade deadline. It was then that Dallas received an offer that knocked my socks off: Milwaukee had offered us Khris Middleton in exchange for Kristaps Porzingis and two first round picks.
I loved the Porzingis/Turner frontcourt duo but ultimately decided Khris Middleton was worth going all-in on. The Middleton trade was the only transaction at the deadline. I simulated the remaining games and ended up second in the West. Luka Doncic finished first team All-NBA and won the trophy for league MVP. The Mavericks swept through the first round of the playoffs but lost game seven on a buzzer-beater against the Grizzlies in round two and our season came to an end. It was a soul-crushing defeat. I thought we had a chance to make the Finals but it was not to be.
With no draft picks and only the Mid-Level Exemption to use, the path forward was a murky one. Rookie Damion Collins developed nicely and garnered a ton of interest from other teams. He was our best trade asset and would provide Dalas with an opportunity to improve the team in a significant way. It was not put up or shut up time. I had one season left to win a title. Once again, I pounded the phones and put out feelers on the trade market.
- Traded away Jalen Brunson, Damion Collins, a 2nd round pick. Received OG Anunoby and Raul Neto.
The team got off to a fantastic start. Through January 1st, the Mavericks had a 25-7 record and were beating teams by an average of 15 points. In the name of continuity and chemistry, I decided against making any significant moves and ignored overtures from opposing teams. I was on top of the world and then disaster struck.
Then, I got the one notification I did not want to see. Luka Doncic had suffered a torn ACL and would miss the rest of the season. I was devastated. The season was lost. The Mavericks went sub .500 the rest of the way and limped into the playoffs as a 6th seed. The Lakers made quick work of us and beat us in 5 games.
It’s impossible to not think about what could have been. A team with Luka Doncic, Malcolm Brogdon, OG Anunoby, Tim Hardaway Jr., Myles Turner, and Khris Middleton was a Maverick’s fan dream. We had a collection of excellent two-way players and enough depth to compete with anyone on a night to night basis.
We should have won the title. And yet, we fell short. Winning a title is hard and this season proved that health and luck are as important as roster construction. It was a wild run and while we may not have reached the pinnacle of success, the memories we created and the relationships we forged will be cherished forever.